Discuss the role that mothers play for the six flag raisers.
Mothers are a theme that links all men in battle: in his comparison of the Japanese, German, and American troops, Bradley points out that they are connected by their dying word, which is invariably, "Mother!" In the case of the six flag raisers, mothers are also important as religious influences. After the death of her young daughter Mary Ellen, Kathryn Bradley concentrates on raising John devoutly Catholic; Mike Strank's Catholic faith is also the result of his mother's influence. Goldie Sousley and her son, Franklin, are extremely close after the deaths of his brother and father. Belle Block strongly opposes Harlon's joining the football team, but her influence on him in terms of his Seventh-Day Adventist beliefs is clear. Ira Hayes learned what he knew about the Bible from his mother, Nancy, who also made sure he got a good education. Likewise, Rene Gagnon's mother is the most important person in his life until he marries Pauline Harnois. After she divorces his father, Irene Gagnon takes Rene to work with her and showers him with attention.
Belle Block's role as a mother is especially important. When the 5th Division makes National Service Life Insurance policies available to the Marines, Harlon purchases a ten-thousand-dollar policy with his mother, Belle, as the sole beneficiary. Belle Block is convinced that her son, Harlon, is one of the men in the famous flag-raising photograph, though everyone else thinks it is impossible to be sure. After she learns of Harlon's death on Iwo Jima, "something in her had been broken."
Are the six flag raisers religious? How is religion used to characterize them?
As the flag raisers are introduced in Chapter 2, it is clear how religion influences each of the flag raisers in their childhoods. John Bradley and Mike Strank are devout Catholics. Harlon Block is more influenced by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church than his other siblings are, though he leaves his religious school to play football at Welasco High School. Ira Hayes lived just a few steps from the church in which his mother was an important figure. Letter writing demonstrates the role religion played in the lives of the flag raisers. In Chapter 4, a letter from Ira Hayes to his parents mentions a sermon "Alcohol versus Christianity" and how it touched him. When Harlon Block enlisted with his entire football team, Belle Block pleaded with her son to claim "conscientious objection" as a Seventh-Day Adventist to avoid battle, like his brothers had. Bradley focuses on Harlon's religion when he points out that, after Harlon landed on Bougainville, "Harlon, the Seventh-Day Adventist, was getting his first glimpse of the world's wickedness as he trudged past these remains of friends and enemy dead." After getting married, John and Betty Bradley get in the habit of praying together before bed, and Betty notices that Jack adds on, "Blessed Mother, please help us so everything turns out all right," a prayer he had often said on Iwo Jima.
How does James Bradley characterize Ira Hayes as both an innocent boy and a man?
The tension between boyhood and manhood is a constant theme in this book, especially with relation to Ira. A letter from Ira Hayes to his parents from training in San Diego is used to show that "his boyish innocence did not vanish overnight." When he returns home on furlough after fighting in Bougainville, "the slim, quiet boy had been transformed into a very formidable-looking young man... his words were typically thoughtful and gentle, but they were no longer the words of a boy. A man was talking now, a man who had seen things." In Chapter 5, Ira writes home to his parents, "Don't worry about me. I'm a man now, no young guy." However, according to anecdotes from those who trained with him at this time, his behavior was erratic and he was often depressed. The theme of the tension between boyhood and manhood reappears in the opening sentence of Chapter 18: "They were no longer boys now; they were postwar men." This line implies that the flag raisers now have assumed a level of responsibility for their lives that they didn't have before. Ira Hayes is offered help (whatever the motivation) from the Chicago Sun-Times and from Elizabeth Martin, but is unable to pull his life together. In a letter home to his parents, he writes, "So I was cured in their eyes. They had done their part. Now the real test is up to me... all I need is the will power..."
Does James Bradley believe that the six flag raisers are heroes?
At the end of the book, Bradley admits that after researching their lives, the six flag raisers seem like heroes to him, if not for their role in raising the flag on Mount Suribachi. However, he adheres to his father's insistence that, "The heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who didn't come back." Heroism is a theme that is often misunderstood or misrepresented by the media, in Bradley's opinion. One of the main reasons Jack Bradley refuses to talk about his experiences on Iwo Jima, according to James Bradley his son, is that he doesn't want to seek fame as a hero. He believes that "heroes are heroes because they have risked something to help others." In contrast, the flag raising "contained no action worthy of remembering," and thus doesn't make him a hero; he is made a hero by his actions in saving his fellow Marines and in attempting to save those who ended up dying on the island.
What does the author think about the media's coverage of the flag raising on Iwo Jima and the following events? Give examples.
The media's influence becomes a main theme in the book, as the symbol of the flag raising and the flag raisers themselves are distorted and packaged by the media in ways that will serve the interests of the government, but that are not necessarily reflective of the truth. Here, John Daly of the NBC Red declares that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor by air, and Americans are described as poring over their newspapers to learn more about Japan, their new enemy. The photos published in Life magazine in 1938 of Japanese atrocities at Nanking sowed terror not only in the American public, but also in the Marines who arrived at Guadalcanal. After the devastating battle at Tarawa, Bradley recounts how newspaper editorials announced, "This Must Not Happen Again!" alongside pictures of dead Marines floating in the ocean around the island. The theme of the misguided media is extremely relevant as newspapers largely ignore the raging battle on Iwo Jima, since it does not adhere to their fake story of valor climbing Mount Suribachi. Bradley addresses the members of the press with a degree of disdain, sarcastically referring to them as "gentlemen of the press" in contrast to the soldiers fighting the battle. Time magazine propagates an unverified rumor on its radio program when it broadcasts that the photograph was staged. Rosenthal demands and receives a public apology from Time, but the photograph would cause him much frustration in the future. Though the Marines continue to fight on Iwo Jima, the March 5 edition of Time magazine published the photograph of the flag raising on its front page as if the battle had been won. Jack Bradley is mistrustful of the media and refuses to give interviews to the journalists who often call his home for the rest of his life. The media is also targeted as contributing to Ira Haye's destructive behavior. Bradley claims, "The more helpless and vulnerable Ira grew, the more brazen was the press's exploitation of him." A reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times visits him in jail and takes his photograph, and that newspaper posts his bail and enrolls him in a rehabilitation program. They promote fixing his life as their "sanctimonious mission," but in the process, they put pressure on him that contributes to his demise.
How does James Bradley's view of the Japanese government during World War II differ from his characterization of individual Japanese soldiers?
The theme of individuals versus country is introduced with respect to Japan as Bradley describes the atmosphere leading up to World War II for that country. Throughout the 1930s, Japan, as a country led by a military regime, conquered Manchuria and China. Though the Japanese army "employed ruthless tactics," the citizens themselves are described as being squeezed "in an iron vise," totally brainwashed and manipulated into carrying out the will of the government. In relating the atrocities committed by the Japanese soldiers at Nanking, the capital of China, Bradley distinguishes the Japanese from the Germans, the Americans' other enemy in World War II. The "sense of restraint" that dictated even the most brutal front in Europe was absent from the war in the Pacific. Japanese soldiers believed they were fighting in the "Way of the Warrior," or the Bushido tradition, but in fact they were being forced to operate within a twisted version of this warrior ideal; the Japanese military in the 20th century was more of "a cult of death," and its "warriors" were viewed as expendable. During the air raid in Chapter 9, an American on board a ship offshore of Iwo Jima reports that he "could see the face of the Japanese pilot. You could see the fear of death on his face." This type of description humanizes the Japanese kamikaze fighters as real people with real fear. Likewise, as Bradley tells of the soldiers ordered by Colonel Kanehiko Atsuchi to abandon Mount Suribachi, their plight is unfortunate at the hands of the Japanese navy guard, which punishes them for surrendering.
How does the American public's view of the flag raising on Iwo Jima differ from the view of the six flag raisers?
The press is responsible for the American peoples' perception of the war, and during the majority of the battle on Iwo Jima, that perception contrasted with the ideas of the flag raisers themselves. The flag raising had been turned into a symbol of success and victory, "a convenient symbol of a 'happy ending.'" "Attention had now begun to shift away from Iwo Jima, even as the great bulk of the bloodletting began." The contrast between perception and reality is also clear in Bradley's relation of Representative Homer Angell of Oregon's oration in the House of Representatives, in which he declares the photograph to be a representation of "'the dauntless permanency of the American spirit.' Half a world away, the boys did not look so dauntless." Later, as described in Chapter 14, Jack Bradley is mistrustful of the media and refuses to give interviews to the journalists who often call his home for the rest of his life.
Give examples of rhetorical techniques used often by James Bradley in Flags of Our Fathers.
Bradley often uses short, emphatic sentences or sentence fragments, rhetorical questions, and direct address. For example, at the conclusion of Chapter 5, he writes, "December 1944. The last Christmas for too many young boys. Then off for the forty-day sail to Iwo Jima." In Chapter 6, describing the upcoming battle: "The boys would have only their buddies to depend upon, buddies who were willing to die for one another. As soon they would." Finally, these techniques appear in a letter in the final chapter of the book from his daughter, Alison, to her deceased grandfather, John Bradley, where she asks him why he kept so silent about his war experience.
Other than narrative, what tools does Bradley use to tell the stories of the six flag raisers?
In gathering evidence for this book, James Bradley relied heavily on anecdotes, interviews, and letters from those who served with the six flag raisers. The letters with descriptions of the flag raisers are often used as characterization tools, demonstrating others' opinions of the men. For example, in Chapter 5, Bradley quotes a letter from one Joe Rodriguez, who reported to Mike Strank, to demonstrate how Mike was the quintessential Marine: "He was a born leader, a natural leader, and a leader by example... He had real concern for us, he was a big brother to us." Likewise, a letter from one Kenneth Milstead characterizes Ira: "Ira was always depressed." Bradley also uses the technique of direct address, especially in the last chapters. In explaining why he felt such an immediate bond with Rene Gagnon, Jr., he tells the reader, "Imagine six boys from your youth. Line them up in your mind. They are eighteen to twenty-four years old. Select them now; see them. How many marriages, how many children will intersect their lives?" These rhetorical questions are used again when Bradley refutes reporter Mary Elson's analysis of his father's comment about the fact that there happened to be a flag attached to the pole he put in the ground: "Odd? Irrelevant? A casual afterthought? I don't think so."
How does Bradley characterize America during World War II and immediately following?
The six flag raisers are all raised in small towns, and Bradley describes them as representative of the hard-working families that made up the core of America at that time. He says that the Antigo Daily Journal "got it right" in describing his father's "quiet, modest nature and philanthropic efforts" as "an example of the best of small-town American values." These values include support for soldiers fighting abroad, in Europe and in the Pacific, and are manifested by donations to the bond tours. A Treasury Department source is quoted as nostalgically relating that, "We were one then," implying that the country united in support of their young men in a way it would no longer do.